Lauren Jackson climbed the basketball mountain to become Australia’s finest female player but it’s only now in retirement that she fully appreciates the heights she reached during her stellar career.
Jackson concedes she was too hard on herself during her playing days, often letting the pressure to perform overtake the joyous moments.
Even now as a doting mother of two and a dedicated professional working for Basketball Australia, she often forgets about her decorated basketball career.
It’s only when accolades like induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame come up that Jackson allows herself to truly reflect, and appreciate, her achievements in the WNBL, WNBA, Europe and on the international stage for Australia.
“My career feels like a lifetime ago now,” Jackson said frankly.
“The idea of me not having children and a full-time job – it seems like I had another life.
“But when I have to sit back and reflect on my career, what I was able to achieve being an Australian female athlete was remarkable.
“The longer that period goes by, the more it does feel like a dream, especially my achievements over in America and with the Australian team.
“I know when I was an athlete, I wish I would have appreciated it more.
“Now looking back, I think I was a bit hard on myself.
“Oh, I mean, I must have been pretty good you know.”
In many people’s minds, Jackson is the greatest Australian basketballer of all-time.
Better than Andrew Bogut, Andrew Gaze and the future King, Ben Simmons.
It seems like a big call to make, but the stats don’t lie.
Two WNBA championships with Seattle, three WNBA MVPS, four WNBL MVPS while she collected two golds, three bronze and three silvers for the Opals.
It’s a personal tally that firmly places the girl from Albury in the record books as one of the greatest Australian basketballers.
A humble Jackson says it is a privilege to be named in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame alongside her sporting idols like Australian swimming legend, Dawn Fraser.
“The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is very prestigious,” she said.
“It really is the best athletes in Australia, so you are among a group of remarkable human beings who have achieved so much in sport.
“I guess I was just really lucky to achieve what I did, and it is a huge honour to be a part of the Hall of Fame with people that I idolise like Dawn Fraser and Louise Sauvage.
“To be recognised is a massive honour.
“Retirement brings these types of awards and achievements, which I guess is just further confirmation for what I was able to achieve.
“They are incredible women, so to be recognised alongside them and become a member of the Hall of Fame is very exciting.”
Jackson has been retired from basketball for four years, but she is continuing to give back to the game that gave her so much.
The legendary Australian is helping the WNBL make giant strides forward through her Head of Women’s Basketball job.
Jackson played a major role in the set-up of the league’s North Queensland hub during the coronavirus pandemic while she pushed for the competition’s first Collective Bargaining Agreement in 41 years.
“It has definitely been an evolution for me with basketball,” she said.
“The sport has been my life. I grew up as the daughter of two Australian players and then wanted to follow in their footsteps, so I feel like basketball was in my blood for sure.
“My journey as an athlete, into an older elite athlete and then into administration has given me a broad perspective on basketball in Australia and globally.
“Now I’m in a position where I can play a part in pushing the sport forward in my role with Basketball Australia, which is exciting.
“Like everything, it comes with its challenges, but it is so rewarding to still be involved in the sport that has been my life and my passion – it is really incredible.”